Best Teams in the 2nd Half

I wrote a post before the second half of the MLB season started over at Sports Betting. The theme of the article is about second half teams that will need to make a move before the MLB trade deadline to remain afloat.

The teams of focus are the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Washington Nationals.

Head over there and see what you think. There’s also a lot of other great articles on their blog about baseball. It’s a good daily stop for any big time Major League Baseball fan.

Diamond Hoggers does Vegas

“The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior’s college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it’s like checkin’ into an airport. And if you order room service, you’re lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it’s all gone. You get a whale show up with four million in a suitcase, and some twenty-five-year-old hotel school kid is gonna want his Social Security Number. After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds. But in the end, I wound up right back where I started. I could still pick winners, and I could still make money for all kinds of people back home. And why mess up a good thing? “ — Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein

I haven’t felt like writing about baseball all week because the Reds are miserable to watch when they win and they’ll make you made enough that you want to kick your pets when they lose (I don’t own a pet).

Tomorrow I’m headed to Vegas with some close friends and former teammates for my bachelor party. This is the first time in the existence of this blog that I’ll have been to that city of lights. I’ll try and check in with something noteworthy in between the blackjack, the poker, the tequila sunrises, and the scotch. My friends and I agreed to all sit down in the sports book out there one day and throw some money on the Reds and get hammered for 9 innings. They said things like ‘we can’t lose that bet’. Uh, we sure the Hell can and will.

I just really hope I don’t lose my ass out there. Both in a monetary sense but more so in a sense that I get too hammered and aimlessly wander around the streets of Vegas for half of a day without food, water or toilet. You might laugh, but the last time I was out there it was close to that. I’m going to use this trip as a yard stick to see how my maturity has grown since my first year out of college.

We’ll be meeting at the MGM Grand tomorrow night around 6:00 Vegas time. Grades, Tyler, Sal, Bob, and Uncle Frank: bring me home in one piece!

Never Say Die

Brandon Phillips’ walk-off bomb off Fernando Salas with two out in the bottom of the 9th last night reminds us all that we need to have faith until all 27 outs have been collected. I have to admit, I packed it in. I thought the Reds were finished and was about to tweet things like ‘guys should start getting their own #’s because wins and losses do not matter anymore for this group’.

Phillips hit a two run homer just moments after Albert Pujols got his own, and the Reds had last serve and took the game 6-5.

In my opinion, that was the biggest swing all season for the Reds. Phillips said it was the biggest home run of his career. And they begin the second half of the season just as they began the first, with a huge and unlikely walk-off homer to beat a division opponent.

It’s all what you do from here, no doubt. But Brandon Phillips–the heart and soul of the Cincinnati Reds–lifted this roster from the depths of huge trouble and bring them into Saturday with a chance to keep on rolling and be spoken for in this thing. The Central is now tied with the Cardinals and Pirates, yes the Pirates; at the top of the division. This is going to be a four way dance for a while and the Reds are going to have to be very steady about .500 and play to their Pythagorean to stay in this thing and leap frog teams.

They’re in for the fight of their lives. And after just the first round Brandon Phillips delivered a really big first punch.

And now a little 80’s.

The Reds are back. It’s the 2nd half.

It’s the start of the second half, and the Reds kick the party off at home tonight with what some say is the biggest rivalry in the game right now.

There’s no more circling this date or that date. After tonight, teams will be out of halves and that means they will start running short on hope if things don’t turn around soon. Granted 75% of the National league is 4 games up or 4 games under–but over the next week to three we’re about to see the men separate from the boys.

Do you believe? Are you ready for a wild ride? Here’s a little something to get you fired up courtesy of DatDudeBP:

So like they used to say, let’s put the women and children to bed and go looking for F%$&*& dinner!

2011 Major League Baseball All Star Game

[Box Score]

There is one thing that came clear to me during yesterday’s All-Star Game, of which I watched the entire thing.

First off, the game was boring. It didn’t do a lot to showcase the sport’s midsummer classic. But there’s a reason for that. I felt the same way about this year’s game as I did about last year’s game. Pitching and arms are nastier and deeper than they’ve ever been before and on a lot of nights that equates to some really bland baseball.

Gone are the days where you have a Danny Darwin type arm sneak into the game or a guy who throws nothing but 86 and gets by on guile. You’ll never see that again. Baseball has a plethora of flamethrowers to choose from who have succeeded enough with their dynamite stuff in the first half of the season that you’ll virtually never watch another inning of All Star Game baseball that doesn’t feature a guy on the mound absolutely pumping 97 to 100 MPH.

Power arm after power arm last night trotted out and did their thing–and if you want to say Cliff Lee wasn’t throwing that hard–go ahead and notice that he got a bomb hit off him to allow the AL’s only run.

Prince Fielder hit the big majestic 3-run blast that salted the game away. The memorable plays I remember in the field were Hunter Pence’s assist at home plate that seemed to swing the momentum, along with Jordan Walden’s barehand play and Jose Bautista’s sliding catch against the right field wall.

But for nine innings, the display for all to see was the incredible arm that this league features. And the All Star Game was really a 9 inning sample of what we have going on all around baseball. Pitching is dominating everywhere you look and offense is down to 1992 levels for the second season in a row.

It’s neither good, bad or indifferent. It’s just how the game is today.

Click below for a few shots of the Reds.

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A Home Run Derby for Pitchers? Yes Please.

My buddy Trent texted me last night to tell me that Kershaw suggested on ESPN radio that they do a pitchers hr derby. So naturally, that led into a debate about who would be the 8 pitchers to participate and how would it turn out. After a night of Coors, Chris Berman, and Homers, the debate had turned into an absolute mess. My boy RV and I got together this morning to iron everything out. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

The 2011 Pitchers Homerun Derby presented by NextLevelBallplayer.com.

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Thoughts on the 2011 Major League Baseball All Star Game

I’ve never heard so much complaining in my life about something that should be fun and about something that should be a break from the traditional stresses of following a sport.

I’ve never heard so many calls to change or ratify the All-Star Game.

Honestly, leave it the Hell alone and if you don’t like it; don’t watch it. If you feel it’s a silly exhibition game, you’re not a true fan anyways. If you are a player who doesn’t want to attend, good. We don’t want to watch you waste at-bats in a game that definitely has something riding on it. For every player who opted out for this reason or that, there’s a Jay Bruce who is really genuinely excited to get in the game tonight and make something happen.

And for all of the fans and media types who will try and play it off like this game means nothing; there’s a ton of players who will lace it up tonight and play hard to do their thing against the best in the world. They’ll try and return to their city with the All Star Game MVP trophy like it’s a prized scalp to show off to other members of their tribe. Don’t think that these guys don’t want to be the best player on display tonight–because they definitely do. They’ve reached a place that around 90% of guys in this league will never even have a chance at. They’re going to play hard and they’re going to try to do something big.

Look at the names of the guys who have won the All Star Game MVP in the last two decades. Taking something like that home is pretty synonymous with greatness in baseball. Especially from about 1989 to 2001. Wow.

If you’re a fan of baseball–the kind of fan that MLB should aim to appeal to and keep–then you’ll tune in tonight.

You’ll tune in to see the National League try and start a streak of their own. You’ll watch because of all of the midsummer’s tradition and memories this game means to you.

My first All-Star game was 1992. I watched in our living room as Ken Griffey Jr. stole the show just like Ken Griffey Jr. was supposed to. Back in those days, you heard about Ken Griffey Jr. but you didn’t see him play on television where I lived. Except for that night or randomly on FOX Saturday Baseball once or twice a year. Just look at some of the names in that box score. Legends of this game.

The guys who say the players don’t try in this game obviously didn’t grow up or have a memory long enough to remember that July 12th night back in 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium. I remember it. Tony Gwynn was heroic. And that would be the last time the National League would win until last year.

It’s a crazy notion to think that people out there want something changed about this great tradition that is the All Star Game. But I can tell you that if they do, they’re not the grass roots fans of the game of baseball. They’re definitely not the type that understand history and that this was the very same game in which Bobby Clemente took his spot in the same outfield as Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

You must not sit and realize that you’re seeing a gathering of future legends and Hall of Famers all in one spot tonight. The same people who don’t care about this game and call it an exhibition game will never care about it. It’s the same game that our fathers and grandfathers and uncles grew up watching in the dead heat of the July all those summers ago. It’s just as great as it always was. I’ll be tuned in, and I’ll be hoping that Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Scott Rolen or Bruce bring that prized scalp back to the Queen City and the NL is victorious.

It’s a lot of fun to watch, and it’s the best All-Star Game in the business. Better than the NFL, NHL, or NBA could ever assemble.

The NL’s Fluorescent Home Run Derby Shoes, and other odds & ends

Here’s a shot of the fluorescent cleats that Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Rick Weeks, and Matt Kemp wore for the derby last night. I’m not real sure why they decided to do this, but it did not translate into any type of extra power. An immensely disappointing night for the NL squad; and Weeks and Kemp were especially nondescript.

In short, Prince you pansy ass. We let you select the squad and in true Brewer fashion you fuck it all up. Joey Votto, Justin Upton or Jay Bruce would have done just fine in this contest. But you selected Rick Weeks who swung so damn hard that he hit more foul poppers (and led off with a whiff swing) than anything.

Pure legend next to never will be, Bobby Valentine. Barry, you deserve so much better than to be sitting there with the likes of Bobby V. and we pity that you were there for what probably added up to about 5 hours of Bobby putting his foot in his mouth.

This is Adrian Gonzalez’s spray chart in the final round. He hit 11 in all and most figured that was going to be good enough to win it. But then Robinson Cano came up and started hitting off his daddy and made 12 look easy. Cano easily stole the show last night and about 5 of the bombs he hit were the most impressive. Although I give Big Papi major credit for having the idea to put Adrian in this contest because he has a nice easy stroke that translates well for a Derby.

And don’t forget about the State Farm Gold Balls that were inserted into last night’s derby that caused fans in the outfield seats to act like sharks (one fan jumped into the pool to make the catch, one nearly fell from the stands to do the same).

The Gold Balls are MSRP’ing at around $150 we’re told. Yes they’re made with actual gold and all, but we’re just glad no one else got hurt.

Chris Berman’s Home Run Derby ‘back-back-back’ count surprisingly low

We watched the Home Run Derby last night pretty attentively. We watched, and we waited for Chris Berman to strike down on us with his “back, back, back’s” without mercy.

Guess what? Something is rotten in Denmark. Chris Berman has been reading the blogs. It’s obvious at least to me that he toned it down this year. One commenter in our liveblog mentioned that Berman was old school, and saving his trademark patented finishing verbal maneuver for only the true bombs. That might hold water, but it was too toned down.

By our count, and we admit to doing a fair amount of flipping as the night went on; Berman only did about 7 or 8 back, back, back’s. Rather than on every other home run like in the past. He really, truly seemed to be trying to hold back and when he did do it, it was simply by habit or accident.

He did however unleash some of the following gems:

“This one’s a sky-scraper” (actually said this on two different occasions)

“This one is out to the space station, isn’t it?”

“That was a fair catch” (after Prince Fielder hit a high drive that just got over in RF)

“In that swing off, Prince was king”

“Splish splash and we’re taking a bath” (easily the Berman-ism of the night, after a HR landed in the pool)

If you were turning in for Berman last night; and we know that no one out there actually was, you weren’t completely let down. But something from the past was missing. Berman has been reading what’s out there about his performance in past home run derby’s and due to that he toned it down with his trademark line. His hair was about as thin and bad as ever, though.

Chris Berman, the State Farm Home Run Derby, and You

Tonight, Chris Berman will take you on a back-back-back-a-thon of baseball’s biggest blasts, and all the All-Stars will be sitting on the lawn in Arizona like a bunch of little leaguers.

It’s annual, it’s fun, and it’s predictable.

Berman will throw in a few ill-fated puns only to interrupt himself with the ‘back-back-backing’ of a long home run by Jose Bautista. And we’ve got 2 to 1 odds that he uses the pun “Bautista bomb” as a very bad play on words from the former WWE superstar’s finisher.

The important things to remember while watching the derby go as follows:
1) Berman simply says things because they are fun for him to say them (i.e. when Matty Holliday goes deep Berman will declare it a “National Holliday”).

2) What you are watching no matter how fun it is; is just glorified batting practice.

Here are some other predictable verbal punches and kicks Berman might throw at you tonight:

“Oh my gosh folks! He’s gone deep again! He’s the Prince of the Desert!” (When Fielder hits a bomb)

“It’s back, back, back, back and David Orteases it off the wall, just missing his 7th home run”.

“And Robinson CAN!” (after Cano barely sneaks one into the crowd)

“And Ricky he might be little but do not call him Weeks has done it again”

As great as Berman probably thinks he is, and as great as ESPN thinks he is; he’s really just one big trip back to the European pool. You know what we mean by that concept; if you’ve seen one tit, you’ve seen them all. If you subject yourself to tonight and you listen to Berman the only way you have the choice, your home run derby experience will be forever changed. Every derby will then run together from here on out.

There will be brief periods tonight where Berman’s voice drones us into thinking that it’s 1996 again and things are happening back at Veterans stadium. The years go on and fly by but Berman remains the same.

In all seriousness, the derby is still awesome to us and the summer is now officially at it’s midpoint. We wish the contestants were a little different but if you are running a derby pool at your office don’t be a doofus. Put your money on Joey Bats and him actually destroying Josh Hamilton’s derby record. You don’t bet on a guy with that kind of facial hair ability, pulled shot power in a home run contest. He’s going to own tonight. And Berman will take whatever he leaves to chance.

Throwing it around

Happy All-Star Workout Day! This has always been my favorite couple of days during the baseball season and the Reds have four representatives at the All-Star game so it deems them as somewhat relevant. And even though they coasted into the break on fumes, it should be a pretty good couple of days ‘off’ for us all. And the 2011 Reds are showing many that fans need time off as well. Hopefully your pets made it through the first half of the season because the way the Reds are playing it makes some probably want to feed their pets to a chip-shredder.

-A clubhouse convo with former New York Met Howard Johnson. Does he know how great he was in RBI Baseball? [Next Level Ballplayer]
-The 5 best and 5 worst MLB Home Run Derby performances. [Big League Stew]
-Bryce Harper is coming along according to plan. [The GM’s Office]
-ESPN has unleashed the Home Run Derby Tracker for tonight’s bombs. [ESPN]
-A nice little table of the salaries of the All-Star Game’s starters. [Off Base Percentage]
-A record 83 players were named All-Stars this year. Not good. [USA Today Daily Pitch]

The Pendelum Swings in Milwaukee

What a tough, gut-wrenching weekend to be Cincinnati Reds fan.

You had the huge win on Saturday night sandwiched in between two huge losses on Friday and Sunday that were the sole result of Francisco Cordero taking a save-situation and blowing the game solely on his own.

It’s hard because the Reds were hovering around .500 and could have headed into the break a salvageable 1 or 2 games out of first place and with a lot of life. They could have headed in over .500, and they outplayed the division leader in a series once again. But Coco Cordero entered ballgames that his team worked 9 innings to build a lead and earn a win and he single-handedly took the ‘W’ out of the win column and gave his team two disheartening losses.

The Reds got a huge home run (and game) out of Jay Bruce on Saturday or they might have been swept altogether.

This All-Star break couldn’t have came at a better time. I’ll end this post with something that gave me a little hope even after yesterday’s game evaporated in the bottom of the 9th. Something that tells me that they still think they can do this thing: